Nursing is a truly unique role.
It enables you to work on the frontlines and help in a crisis, which has been very beneficial in recent years. It also allows you to help people and comes with a high level of career satisfaction.
Although, when many people are asked about nursing, they picture an ER nurse or a pediatric nurse working in a hospital and providing bandages and medication to patients.
Nursing is rarely, if ever, associated with working in the mental health sector or with patients who have learning disabilities.
Unfortunately, mental health nursing has a negative image. Due, in part, to movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the infamous nurse Ratchet. Mental health nurses are sophisticated and intelligent medical professionals who provide different kinds of support to their patients alongside the standard medical care that a nurse in a community center or ER would also provide.
This kind of role includes challenges and advantages, which many other kinds of nursing do not provide. Have you recently trained as a nurse and are looking to specialize in mental health? Or have you always wanted to work in mental health? This article aims to help you get a better insight into the challenges faced by mental health nurses and how best to cope with them.
Are you working in a psychiatric intensive care unit? Or a community project as a mental health nurse? You are going to encounter challenging behavior. This is part of the job, but many people who are new to mental health nursing find it jarring. It is likely to be covered on an accelerated BSN program online, but you might not have to deal with it in person while you study.
Challenging behavior will also vary depending on the area you are working in. You may experience patients not wanting to take their medication. Or you may work with patients who are in acute psychosis and are suffering from delusions. This is hard for those new to the area, and it is best overcome by experience. If you are struggling, ask the more senior members of staff for tips. Of course, read up on guidelines relating to how to care for people in these situations, and also read the patient notes as this can help you identify the best way to manage patients in these situations.
It is also often overlooked in general nursing, and that is the required knowledge relating to the medications.
In psychiatric care, this is no different. Psychopharmacology, as it is known, is a wide area. For different mental illnesses, there are radically different medications that affect how the patient may act and potentially impact their physical health. For instance, Clozaril requires weekly blood tests, as does lithium. As a mental health nurse, you will have to be more aware of these factors when talking to patients about the medications doctors have prescribed.
Psychopharmacology also presents challenges relating to drug interactions. This means that you will need to know how each of the medications will interact. This is in-depth and takes time to master. Studying and reading inserts are advised. Are you working in a psychiatric inpatient setting? Then you will need to attend meetings with a psychiatrist, this will be to discuss how a medication is affecting your patients’ behavior. If it is effective in treating their mental condition. Psychopharmacology is part of most mental health nursing courses. But it is a changing area, and it is also worth engaging in extra training while on the job. This will keep you up to date with the latest advancements.
It will also be part of your job to ensure that patients take their medication under your care. You will have to oversee staff such as support workers too. This is to ensure that the charting of medication is accurately reported.
Most mental health units aim to discharge patients to the community unless you are a nurse that is already working in community support, in which case you will need to assist patients with their daily living.
For nurses working in acute settings, this can create a challenge. Not only by communicating with these professionals but ensuring that the care plan devised in the hospital is being followed. Which will mean your communication skills will have to be top-notch.
Clarity is key to providing patient care, especially relating to mental health. Follow-ups and meetings are required, as well as phone calls and emails.
Community support can also create complications. Many patients can fall back into psychiatric care in an inpatient setting, and this is due to a lack of support in the community. As a mental health nurse, you will need to ensure that adequate support is in place. So, when your patient leaves the hospital, they won’t come back. You won’t need to undertake this alone, as community groups, family, and other professionals will help to ensure that this is the case.
You will also need to send paperwork about your patient to the correct team. Which can be challenging with community-based mental health support teams. Your patient may be moving around. So, you or your staff have to follow up on where your patient is living and who their current care provider is.
Regardless of the area, nursing is rewarding, but there are also stresses that come with this role. These are enhanced when it comes to mental health nursing. You are dealing with challenging behavior, but there is a lot of bureaucracy and psychopharmacology. As well as other factors such as planning for therapy. While also ensuring that patients under your care are safe.
One way to prevent burnout is to discuss any issues you are having with your ward manager or line manager. Many psychiatric hospitals offer support programs for their staff. If you are feeling under strain, please attend these. It is also worth taking good care of your physical health, as this will have an impact on your mental health.